Our Governance

Strong governance structures enable us to deliver our Plan, realise the benefits for the business and draw on relevant expert input.

Management structures

Our commitment to sustainable living is embedded into our business agenda through our purpose and vision and our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Management structures to help us fulfil our commitment are integrated into our organisational framework:

  • Sustainability and corporate responsibility are championed and led by a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE): Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer. The ULE is responsible for the operational leadership of the business.

  • Strategic development of our social and environmental goals is the responsibility of our four product Categories and their global brand teams. These categories are: Foods, Personal Care, Refreshment and Home Care.

  • Implementation is rooted in our operating companies around the world.

  • Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team supports the ULE. Together with the Presidents of our Categories, a wide range of functions is represented on the Steering Team including R&D, procurement, marketing, legal, finance, sustainable business and communications and customer development. This team of senior leaders meets quarterly and is chaired by ULE member, Keith Weed.

  • Governance of our conduct as a responsible corporate citizen is provided by our Boards’ Corporate Responsibility Committee.

  • Both our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team and Board Committee benefit from the insights of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Council (USLP Council) – a group of external specialists in corporate responsibility and sustainability who guide and critique the development of our strategy.

This governance structure is supported by a small team reporting to our Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at our corporate headquarters in London.  Our Senior Vice President for Sustainable Business and Communications supports our Corporate Responsibility Committee and Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team.  She leads the integration of sustainability into our business, working with our functions, categories, brand and country teams to open up opportunities for business growth. Our Chief Sustainability Officer supports our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Council and leads our external sustainability agenda to drive systemic change across markets through advocacy and partnerships.

Independent oversight: Corporate Responsibility Committee

The role of the Board committee of Non-Executive Directors – the Corporate Responsibility Committee – is to oversee Unilever’s conduct as a responsible business. In so doing it monitors the progress – and potential risk – of the Plan and reports back on this to the Boards. Two highlights of the Committee’s work in 2013 included scrutiny of Unilever's Code of Business Principles and the review of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and its social impacts.

The Corporate Responsibility Committee, which meets quarterly, is chaired by Louise Fresco.

To ensure alignment of all these groups, Keith Weed, a member of the ULE, attends the Corporate Responsibility Committee meetings, and chairs the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team and USLP Council.

Independent oversight: Audit Committee

One of the roles of the Boards’ Audit Committee is to review Unilever's overall approach to risk management including the identification of corporate risks and related mitigation/response plans. The Committee reviews significant breaches of the Code of Business Principles as part of its remit to review risk management. It also oversees the independent assurance programme for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Governance of our codes: Global Code & Policy Committee

The Global Code and Policy Committee, chaired by our Chief Legal Officer, oversees the implementation of the Code of Business Principles on behalf of the ULE.

Executive management

The Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), led by our Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for managing profit and loss and delivering growth. Implementation and delivery of the Plan are monitored by the ULE. The ULE is supported in matters of sustainability by the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team whose members are accountable for ensuring the goals are achieved.

External insights: Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Council

Our strategy benefits from the insights of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Council – a group of internationally respected external specialists in corporate responsibility and sustainability. They form a panel of independent – and independently minded – experts who guide and critique the development of our strategy and also give input on our external reporting of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

The members of the Council are:

  • Helio Mattar - Co-Founder and President of the Akatu Institute for Conscious Consumption, Brazil 

  • Malini Mehra – Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Markets, India

  • Jonathon Porritt – Founder Director of Forum for the Future, UK.

  • Yolanda Kakabadse – President of WWF International, Switzerland.

  • Afshan Khan – Director of Emergency Programmes, UNICEF, US.

  • Danielle Nierenberg – President of Food Tank, US.

Specialist input: Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC)

SEAC's role is to provide independent scientific evidence and guidance so that Unilever can identify and manage:

  • Risks for consumers, workers and the environment with regard to the safety of products and supply chain technology

  • Environmental impacts, with regard to the sustainability of Unilever's brands, products and supply chain.

SEAC have used their long-standing expertise in lifecycle assessment to help develop the environmental metrics and the approach to measuring our baseline in greenhouse gases, water and waste for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. See Our Metrics.

Specialist input: Sustainable Sourcing Steering Group

The Sustainable Sourcing Steering Group comprises Unilever staff from around the world responsible for managing our Sustainable Sourcing Programme for renewable raw materials. Its objective is to promote sustainable supply chains, focusing on long-term, sustainable access to Unilever's key crops.

The Steering Group benefits from the input of the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board, which comprises experts from diverse backgrounds such as not-for-profit organisations, research institutes, companies and academia. Its role is to provide independent advice and judgement and to strengthen policy-making within Unilever. In particular its members provide advice on key aspects of our Plan, namely the sustainable sourcing of raw materials and engaging with smallholders – and various areas that impact sustainability in our value chain such as biodiversity, the use of chemicals, labour conditions and poverty alleviation. See our Sourcing Strategy for more.

Other programmes

Sustainability Champions' Network and Sustainable Packaging Steering team are examples of how teams come together to work on specific issues. These groups work to assess Unilever's footprint, formulate strategy, agree policy, work with category and brand teams to set specific goals and support the teams in implementing them. They also seek advice from external experts.